how to take a walk

9.16.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
waning gibbous moon
bee inspecting a hole in a trumpet vine blossom
blueberry life on the rocks
trumpet vine reaching for the moon
fallen leaf standing in water

We enjoyed a lovely long walk around the pond at the arboretum on Friday. I was in my sweatshirt and enjoying the fresh cool air. The trees are still green for the most part and we wondered what kind of fall color is in store for us in the wake of the drought. There were still some summer tints lingering side by side with hints of autumn hues.

half standing lily pad
pond in moderate drought
upside down

Few men know how to take a walk. The qualifications of a professor are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. If a man tells me that he has an intense love of nature, I know, of course, that he has none. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, their patient good sense, and if they add words, ’tis only when words are better than silence.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1871)

We also took a side path to the Glenn Dreyer Bog which was illuminated with spots of bright sunshine. The light near the equinoxes is amazing, as I often say.

Glenn Dreyer Bog
Glenn Dreyer Bog

The woods were full of gray catbird calls and we heard them rustling around in the tree branches. Occasionally we spotted one but they were diligently avoiding my camera. This was the summer of the catbird. Not only did we have one singing in our river birch outside our kitchen window, we saw them on almost every walk we took. Back in June, though, they were out in the open and more amenable to being photographed.

gray catbird
gray catbird
gray catbird
small fern and moss

How much of beauty — of color, as well as form — on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us!
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, August 1, 1860)

river birch triplets

Today the humidity is creeping back with higher temperatures but it shouldn’t last for too many days. We plan to go see an outdoor Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, in the park tonight and will bring blankets to keep warm. This was supposed to happen in June but covid got the theater group and they had to postpone. We got our new bivalent booster shots last week but still plan to exercise caution as we try to move forward.

the great spring murmur

image credit: ArtTower at pixabay

The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life. This murmur arose from all the land, fraught with the joy of living. … Squirrels were chattering, birds singing, and overhead honked the wild-fowl driving up from the south in cunning wedges that split the air.
~ Jack London
(The Call of the Wild)

in soft silent beauty

“The Harvest Moon” by Samuel Palmer

When we were young
and feeling the need to prove ourselves,
we generated heat and energy
like the noonday sun.
But now we take time to reflect the Tao
and bathe our world in soft silent beauty
like the full moon on an Autumn evening.

An abundance of opinions will generate heat
but accomplish nothing.
You no longer have to comment
on each and every little thing.
You can observe events with a detached serenity.
When you speak,
your words are gentle, helpful, few.
Your silence is as beautiful as the Harvest moon.

~ William Martin
(The Sage’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for the Second Half of Life)

one held breath

Okapi ~ image found on Pintrest

She is inhumanly alone. And then, all at once, she isn’t. A beautiful animal stands on the other side of the water. They look up from their lives, woman and animal, amazed to find themselves in the the same place. He freezes, inspecting her with his black-tipped ears. His back is purplish-brown in the dim light, sloping downward from the gentle hump of his shoulders. The forest’s shadows fall into lines across his white-striped flanks. His stiff forelegs splay out to the sides like stilts, for he’s been caught in the act of reaching down for water. Without taking his eyes from her, he twitches a little at the knee, then the shoulder, where a fly devils him. Finally he surrenders his surprise, looks away, and drinks. She can feel the touch of his long, curled tongue on the water’s skin, as if he were lapping from her hand. His head bobs gently, nodding small, velvet horns lit white from behind like new leaves.It lasted just a moment, whatever that is. One held breath? An ant’s afternoon? It was brief, I can promise that much, for although it’s been many years now since my children ruled my life, a mother recalls the measure of the silences. I never had more than five minutes’ peace unbroken. I was that woman on the stream bank, of course, Orleanna Price, Southern Baptist by marriage, mother of children living and dead. That one time and no other the okapi came to the stream, and I was the only one to see it.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(The Poisonwood Bible)

When I stumbled across this picture of an okapi on Pintrest it brought to memory this passage In Barbara Kingsolver’s amazing book, The Poisonwood Bible. It stuck with me because I had a similar experience with a stag when I was little, a moment of transcendence, when time seemed to stand still for this six-year-old.

I was introduced to Barbara Kingsolver’s writing by a physical therapist who was coming to the house regularly to work with my dad. One morning the three of us were sitting around the table, waiting for Papa to finish eating his late breakfast. Her name was Betty-Jean, which reminded us of my mother, who was called Betty-Jo by her parents. We fell into a conversation about my mother’s love of nature and Native American culture.

Papa mentioned a visit he and my mother had made to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on Cape Cod, and that he had inadvertently offended a young man when he “stepped into his circle.” I wasn’t sure what he meant and he had trouble trying to explain it to me. Betty-Jean thought perhaps it had something to do with a vision quest. “What’s a vision quest?” I inquired, full of curiosity.

The conversation meandered around for a bit after that, but before Betty-Jean began her session with my father, she asked me if I was familiar with Barbara Kingsolver. I had never heard of her until then, so she said she thought I would like her book, Animal Dreams. I ordered it as soon as I got home that night and have been devouring her books ever since. They way she weaves spiritual journeys with nature resonates with me deeply.

forces of life consciousness

windsofthewillow
image source: Winds of the Willow

Not too long ago thousands spent their lives as recluses to find spiritual vision in the solitude of nature. Modern man need not become a hermit to achieve this goal, for it is neither ecstasy nor world-estranged mysticism his era demands, but a balance between quantitative and qualitative reality. Modern man, with his reduced capacity for intuitive perception, is unlikely to benefit from the contemplative life of a hermit in the wilderness. But what he can do is to give undivided attention, at times, to a natural phenomenon, observing it in detail, and recalling all the scientific facts about it he may remember. Gradually, however, he must silence his thoughts and, for moments at least, forget all his personal cares and desires, until nothing remains in his soul but awe for the miracle before him. Such efforts are like journeys beyond the boundaries of narrow self-love and, although the process of intuitive awakening is laborious and slow, its rewards are noticeable from the very first. If pursued through the course of years, something will begin to stir in the human soul, a sense of kinship with the forces of life consciousness which rule the world of plants and animals, and with the powers which determine the laws of matter. While analytical intellect may well be called the most precious fruit of the Modern Age, it must not be allowed to rule supreme in matters of cognition. If science is to bring happiness and real progress to the world, it needs the warmth of man’s heart just as much as the cold inquisitiveness of his brain.
~ Franz Winkler
(Man: The Bridge Between Two Worlds)

beneath the snow

“Village in the Snow” by Paul Gauguin
“Village in the Snow” by Paul Gauguin

I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future – the timelessness of the rocks and the hills – all the people who have existed there. I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show. I think anything like that – which is contemplative, silent, shows a person alone – people always feel is sad. Is it because we’ve lost the art of being alone?
~ Andrew Wyeth
(LIFE, May 14, 1965)

Block Island

New London Ledge Light, at the mouth of the Thames River
Long Island Sound

Saturday was an overcast day. “Welcome aboard the Jessica W,” our captain’s voice came over the sound system. “We have rough seas today so please stay seated.” And we were off! Our very first high-speed ferry ride! We zoomed past the red lighthouse (above) and, a short time later, the lighthouse with solar panels on the deck (below). We kept our eyes on the horizon so we wouldn’t get sea-sick and a little over an hour later we docked at Old Harbor and set foot on a very picturesque Block Island for the first time in our lives.

Race Rock Light, off the coast of Fishers Island, Long Island Sound

“What took you so long?” quipped our taxi-driver/tour-guide, when he found out we lived just over the sound in Connecticut and had never been to Block Island before. He was a gregarious old salt with many a tale to tell about the heroes and villains of the island’s history. And we were amused by his frequent references to the historical society, which he called the “hysterical” society, presumably because of its overly zealous efforts to keep the island “as-is” for future generations.

Rebecca-at-the-Well? Sophrosyne?

One story was about the woman portrayed in the above statue. Apparently the temperance movement was quite active during Prohibition on Block Island and to pacify its members this monument was erected by the town to honor the biblical Rebecca-at-the-Well. Because of the grape clusters hanging from the woman’s ears, though, it is thought that the woman is actually Sophrosyne, the Greek goddess of moderation, self-control, restraint, and discretion. In other words, Temperance.

Look, stranger, on this island now
The leaping light for your delight discovers,
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.
~ W. H. Auden

Our new friend took us to Payne Overlook where we could look 182 feet down the bluff to the beach below. Next time we go, we plan to bring a picnic lunch and spend some time at Mohegan Bluffs. There are 152 wooden steps down to the beach below, so we can do some beach combing and then climb back up the steps at a snail’s pace with time for lots of rest stops.

When I inquired about the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge I was told there were lots of them. (Later on I bought a trail guide and found that there are indeed ten wildlife areas on this small island.)

Picking up on my interest in nature, our guide then asked if we had ever seen a great black-backed gull. It is the largest of all the seagulls. As he described it I began to think that perhaps he had helped us solve a mystery about a pair of gigantic seagulls that were visiting our beach in Groton (left) for a few days near the end of August. They were so much larger than the regular gulls, but were speckled like immature gulls. After we got home I did a little more research and found a picture of an immature great black-backed gull which does very much look like the ones we saw here in Groton.  Larus marinus

Later on, we visited Southeast Lighthouse. The following picture I took looking up the five-story stairway in the light tower.

Southeast Light, on Mohegan Bluffs, Block Island

It was a delightful day trip we had, something we’ve been meaning to do for many years. There are many more things to explore on Block Island. A cemetery that may be the resting place of some of my newly discovered Littlefield ancestors. A labyrinth… Below is the Jessica W, high-speed ferry, waiting to take us home.

talk of the flower

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ dragonfly
7.2.10 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

This is fun, I get to use all kinds poetry to go with my photos… But after this I might run out of new poems to decorate with!

We found a meadow in the arboretum, stunningly sunny and bright. Yes, there were plenty of dragonflies in all colors and sizes. One even had a huge dark body paired with totally transparent wings. Again, the contrast between the sunlight and the shade was very sharp.

Most of my efforts to capture them with my weary camera failed, as I half expected. However, there was one very special BLUE one! And it held still for a very long time. Long enough for me to come to my senses and use the zoom and get a shot. One more click, got it again!

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Poking around online I have learned (from Wikipedia) that “the Norwegian word for dragonflies is ‘Øyenstikker’, which literally means Eye Poker.” And that just as people who love to watch birds are birding, ones who love to watch dragonflies are oding. And that “oding is especially popular in Texas, where a total of 225 species of odonates in the world have been observed.” Well, that would explain why Lili gets so many great dragonfly pictures down there!

And magically, yesterday, Paul stopped by with a gift from Linda, an amazing knitted square with a dragonfly knitted right into the design! Paul said it was a pot holder but it’s too pretty and delicate to be used in the kitchen. And it doesn’t have a loop to hang it up. (And I hope I don’t get him in trouble for not delivering it sooner, he said he had carried it around for a few days – or was it weeks?)

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
liatris
black-eyed susans ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
black-eyed susans
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Silently a flower blooms,
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place, the whole of the flower,
the whole of the world is blooming.

This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom;
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.
~ Zenkei Shibayama
(A Flower Does Not Talk: Zen Essays)

A garden chapter of this rambling account should soon follow this post…